I woke up very early thinking solar, solar, solar. With the blessing of cloud cover, by 7am I was on the school roof running the solar wires down through conduit. I retreated after the first set as a slight rain made me concerned about slipping when trying to get off the roof. After a short intermission, i was back on the roof. Sumo had not yet arrived and I didn’t have a key to his office so I needed to wait, again, before getting into the closet and making final interior connections. Soon I had some helpers to move the six panels from the warehouse. With several people on the ground, including teacher Patrick and pregnant onlooker Amuchain, Sackie and I were on the receiving end and made fairly quick work of getting them into the racks.
I moved to the final wiring and rechecked every wire per the schematic. Then interruption #1: Tumamee came to discuss feed quantities and other poultry prognostications.
After lunch, batteries were hauled into the closet and I painstakingly connected each cable to avoid having metal wrenches short out on the adjacent battery’s lugs while creating “2 parallel strings of 3 in series”, again double checking per the schematic. Then interruption #2: John from the fish farm at the leprosy center came for a visit.
With all connected, checked and rechecked, I was ready to close my eyes and flip the first breakers. Some beeps and flashing LED indicators then an illuminated display on the charge controller…better than sparks and a boom. The final step now that the charge controller had power was to program various settings to be compatible with our battery specs. I followed the documents sent by our supplier then got to a menu that I couldn’t decipher. Hitting “enter” did nothing and the other menu options scared me. I scanned the operation manual and couldn’t find an image of a similar looking display or subject heading.
I called our supplier in the US and was referred to tech support at the device manufacturer. I’m sure Jim in tech support was very helpful but I thought Liberian English was difficult to understand. This guy was speaking nothing less than Kpelle electrical engineering jargon blended with ancient solar Sanskrit symbology when describing the program values for such things as bulk/absorption, float, rebulk, T-comp, and EQ. He then referred me to a “white paper” on their website’s knowledge base because this controller wasn’t explicitly designed for lithium batteries (which we have) but can be used if “I correctly play with the settings”. That’s like saying my dog, BJ, can carve a turkey with a machete if I play with his training a little…BJ is smart but, come on, a turkey really?! I took as many notes as I could scribble and hoped the white paper would enlighten me. Enough for one day.
After taking a shower, I sat on my bed with my iPhone extended over my head, facing northeast for maximum potential of network connections capable of supporting internet life and began searching for the white paper. After finding and reading it, it’s as if it never existed. It had no value to me. No specifics for my settings, just generalizations that imply a trial and error approach. I gave up and emailed the supplier requesting actual figures before I ruin some very expensive batteries.